President Trump has been surprisingly subdued since Attorney General William Barr released his summary of the special counsel report into Russia election interference. The same letter that inspired the Washington Post headline “Mueller Finds No Conspiracy,” has resulted in just one tame-for-Trump tweet. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” Trump wrote Sunday evening.
At least one adviser is worried that Trump’s modesty won’t last.
It’s true that Trump has a tendency to step on his own message. Over the past couple of years, he’s created controversy where there should be none, taken attention away from his policies to engage in frivolous personal disputes, and repeatedly screwed up infrastructure week.
Barr’s summary of the Mueller report and the subsequent headlines are a clear victory for Trump. Will he mess this up too?
If the public doesn’t have much appetite for vengeance, then the answer seems to be yes. In the hours after Barr’s summary was released, it became clear that Trump will soon set a course for revenge. Speaking to reporters on a tarmac in Palm Beach on Sunday, Trump suggested an investigation into the investigators. “Hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side,” he said. On Monday morning, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called for a new investigation to find out who “invented” the allegation of collusion. That echoed a rallying cry from ideological allies outside the administration, who want probes into Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among others.
Other figures, though, don’t appear worthy of an investigation. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff should leave office. “He ought to resign today,” Conway said on Fox & Friends. “He has been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years promising Americans that the president would be impeached or indicted.”
Trump is also reportedly planning to go after the media. The Washington Post reports that he’ll make the case that some reporters should be fired.
But it’s hard to imagine any of that overshadowing what team Trump is calling a full exoneration (Barr’s memo says Mueller’s report “does not exonerate” Trump). After all, Trump has been complaining about the investigation and feuding with reporters for years. More of the same won’t likely distract from the headlines. Pardons for Paul Manafort and Roger Stone might, though.
There’s also a quickly developing perception that the weekend’s events mark a turning point for Trump. Now that he’s free of the albatross of the Russia investigation, he can focus — not just on retribution, but on governing without a cloud of suspicion hanging over him.
Perhaps it’s that — a President Trump who is focused on governing — that will distract from his apparent win in the Russia investigation. As we’ve seen, he doesn’t have much of a track record. Trump’s governing has previously given us a failed attempt to strip millions of Americans of health care, unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy, children in cages, abdication of U.S. responsibility on climate change, and an obsession with building an expensive and useless border wall.